Jonathan Bartlett: To my fellow dog lovers…

The following is republished in full with permission from Jonathan Bartlett (YG9). Originally published on his blog, December 6, 2011.

I wanted to express my thoughts about a recent project I had the pleasure to work on. In the current issue of Spirit Magazine writer Christina Kelly tells a true account of her chance encounter on a commercial flight with a Military Dog named “Lucky”. The story of Lucky is really nothing short of heroic. It’s a heart wrenching read (aren’t most stories about dogs?), not because it’s sad, but because of the constant reminders of the stoic loyalty and unique bond a dog can bring to someone’s life. It just so happens that this story is backdropped by war, certainly escalating that emotion.

When I was first contacted about the job my interest was immediately peaked by the mention of “military dog”. I knew dogs served a role in the military, but I had no idea to what extent that service was. After further discussion it was apparent that this service member was special. As a dog lover and long time owner myself (family dogs count right?) I was excited, but also incredibly nervous to tackle the challenge of doing this emotional story justice. To take that responsibility one step further, Lucky’s journey isn’t just simply about him, but also about the very special soldiers who served as his handlers. I respect anyone in the military, but in my opinion it takes a unique type of solider to be a warrior in the battle field, but also a trusted friend and loyal partner to his dog- no matter what. A lot is asked of these K-9 soldiers and, unlike humans, we can’t just sit down and talk to them about it. How do they perform under pressure? How does it effect them? Do they even want to be there? Because of that, in my view, a dog’s heart will always be pure and his intentions honorable; no questions asked, no signs of fear, just do the job.

To make the pressure worse, it became evident that this article is not just simply about Lucky or his handlers. It also highlights many other aspects of what it means to be a K-9 for the United States Military. There is a very interesting history of military dogs, some of which is quite sad and downright immoral, to be blunt. During the Vietnam war, service dogs were considered “equipment” and left behind in the jungle because it was “too expensive” to transport them home; another dark smudge on a war that had many. Things have drastically changed since that time, but in some sense I still felt as though the artwork (and story) honoring Lucky was beyond just him. It was more a summation of all the service given and all of the dogs who sacrificed themselves to save human lives and do good-will around the world on our behalf.

My family has been rescuing dogs for many, many years. If my count is correct, somewhere around 9 total (peaking at 6 in the house at one time!) so I understand what it means to give a dog a second chance. It was incredibly special to read this account of dogs who can do the same thing, be it on the battlefield or at base camp for us humans.

The story is beautifully written and extremely informative at the same time. When approaching illustration assignments I always try to bring something more to the “conversation” than the text provides. I suppose this is still the case with this story, however my only real goal was to give honor to those people, like Lucky and SSgt. Martinez, for their contribution to our country.

I encourage all of you to read the full article here.

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